my short story “Red”

You never know how far your stories will travel.

More than half my life ago, when I was in high school, I wrote a short story titled “Red” about a girl named Grace spilling a bottle of red nail polish… and all the memories and emotions that came spilling out of her. This story was included in my self-published short story collection 3 a.m. and was later published as a stand-alone in Diverse Voices Quarterly literary magazine.

I just received a lovely DM from a teenager who lives in Germany and read my story as part of her English language workbook in school. I had NO IDEA my story was included in this workbook and I am stunned… I can’t begin to imagine how my little story written and published 15+ years ago ended up in classrooms across the globe! 🌎

Just goes to show that once you get those words inside of you down on paper and let them out into the world, you never know how far they will travel and how many readers they will reach, even months and years and decades later!

I wanted to share the story with you now — a little blast from my past, in case you are interested in reading it. Hope you enjoy!

RED

by Dallas Woodburn

Grace knocked the nail polish off her bedside table and onto the carpet and that was The End. She crouched there, as if paralyzed, watching the Maybelline “Vixen Red” soak into the white Berber, the teardrop-shaped stain slowly expanding, like blood seeping into a Band-Aid.

Grace sat there, rocking on her heels, watching and waiting. For what, she didn’t exactly know. When the teardrop stopped growing, she got up and went to the kitchen to get some paper towels.

* * *

The rain spattered softly against the car windows. Grace watched the windshield wipers dance, back and forth, forth and back, like her piano teacher’s metronome. She sat with her knees hugged up against her chin, trying to minimize the contact of her skin with the cold vinyl. “Mom,” she said. “It’s raining cats and frogs.”

“You mean cats and dogs,” her mother corrected, never taking her eyes off the road.

It was still raining “cats and frogs” when they arrived at the park. Grace stared out the car window and imagined they were inside a giant aquarium, except filled with birds instead of fish.

Her mother turned around and smiled at Grace in the backseat. “What a perfect day,” she said, “to fly a kite!” Grace could tell she wasn’t joking. Her mother never joked about important matters.

Part of Grace wanted to stay in the car, but the other part of her won out. She pulled the strings on her sweatshirt hood so tight that her face was scrunched and there was only a keyhole of an opening where the rain could get in. Then she tied the strings in a bow—double-knotted, the way Grampa had taught her so it wouldn’t come undone.

Grace tightly held her mother’s hand as they trudged together up the rain-slickened hill that overlooked the playground. She had never been to the park in the rain. It was deserted. Like a magic kingdom that belonged only to Grace and her mother. Just the two of them, and of course some fish disguised as birds. “We’ve always got each other, hon,” her mom said whenever Grace asked about her daddy. “Us girls gotta stick together. Just you and me, that’s all we need.”

That’s all we need. Just you and me. Grace squeezed her mother’s hand.

They were at the top of the hill now, and Grace peeked out her keyhole through the drizzle at the slide and the swing set, then at the picnic tables and the scattered trees, and finally at their little blue car parked alongside the curb. Her mother stood a few feet away, face turned skyward, eyes squinting against the driving BBs of water, hair streaming long and wet down her back. Grace’s clothes had grown heavy and cumbersome. All the tiny raindrops had banded together. It reminded Grace of one of her Grampa’s favorite sayings. “Take little steps, baby steps,” he told Grace whenever she was on the brink of giving up. “Baby steps have a way of adding up to a lot of big steps.”

So do raindrops, Grace thought now, wriggling inside her soggy Hello Kitty sweatshirt. Little raindrops have a way of adding up to big buckets. She wanted to take off her sweatshirt but couldn’t get Grampa’s double-knotted bow undone. Water ran off the tip of her nose, and she stuck out her tongue and caught a drop. She was surprised at how warm it tasted.

Grace’s mother held the kite with hopeful, outstretched hands. She peered up into the leaden sky as if challenging it, or maybe begging. The kite was small and diamond-shaped and painted with rainbows, which Grace’s mother said was “highly ironic.” Grace smiled appreciatively even though she didn’t know what “ironic” meant. She knew this, though: she loved kites and she loved rainbows. And, above all, she loved her mother.

The kite had a hard time getting airborne. “Mom, maybe we should go,” Grace said, holding the end of the kite string and shivering slightly, but her mother didn’t hear. Grace’s mother continued to squint into the drizzle, determined and desperate, holding the kite above her head, quietly beseeching the wind to take the tiny red diamond in its arms and raise it high. Grace knew you shouldn’t fly kites in the rain. Her mother knew this too, and yet there she stood, trying anyway. Just you and me, hon. Years later, this was what Grace most vividly remembered when she thought of her mother: eyes squinted towards the heavens, a double-knot bow that just wouldn’t come undone, and a tiny rainbow struggling against the rain to fly.

* * *

The chemotherapy started the very next week.

The second time, Grace went with her mother into The Little White Room with the hospital smell and space-age machinery. It reminded Grace of the aliens she had seen once, when her Uncle Bill let her stay up late and watch a movie with the Big Kids. Grace was scared of The Little White Room, but she went in anyway. She sat beside the bed and watched the medicine drip…drip…drip out of the IV bag, down a clear tube, and into her mother’s arm, slowly trickling inside her, becoming a part of her, like blood or bone.

Drip… drip… drip… It reminded Grace of the rain dripping off the eucalyptus trees at the park, the day she and her mother flew the rainbow kite. Grace remembered the way her mother shrieked with excitement when the wind finally swept the kite up into its arms. Grace’s heart leapt with the thrill of the kite tugging on the string. She forgot about her soggy sweatshirt and stubborn double-knot bow. She and her mother stood side-by-side, just you and me, hon, watching the rainbow dance in the gray misty rain.

“Hey Mom,” Grace said now, eyes still transfixed on the IV bag. “It’s like the rain.”

“That’s nice, honey.” But Grace could tell her mother wasn’t really listening. She didn’t watch the drip… drip… drip. Instead, she looked at Grace and asked her questions about kindergarten and play dates and Grandma and Grampa. She sounded tired.

As the treatments continued, Grace sometimes brought along pictures she drew in art class. This always made her mother smile, except for the picture of the red kite and the rain. That one made her mother cry.

One day when Grace came to The Little White Room, she brought a bottle of her mother’s nail polish, and they painted each other’s toenails. Grace was careful as could be, but she still got polish on the skin around her mother’s nails. She wasn’t very good at coloring inside the lines, but her mother said that was okay. The nail polish was red, deep red, “Vixen Red.” It was her mother’s favorite color. She said it made her feel alive. You couldn’t be dying if you had bright red toenails. It just didn’t fit the picture.

Grace believed her. We’ve always got each other, hon. Just you and me. She coated her mother’s toenails with thick layers of red, as if somehow chip-free nails could create miracles.

And then her mother died, and Grace’s eyes were Vixen Red for weeks, and she didn’t believe in miracles anymore.

* * *

Grace kept the $3.49 bottle of Vixen Red polish in her bureau drawer, buried underneath her underwear, where nobody would find it. She kept some of her mother’s other things—a lock of auburn hair, a lavender silk scarf, a book of Walt Whitman poems—in the drawer of her bedside table. But the nail polish was Grace’s treasure. Sometimes she would slip it out and painstakingly paint a single fingernail red with the same tiny brush that had traced her mother’s nails nearly a decade ago. Now she stayed inside the lines, carefully painting only one coat, using as little polish as possible, because this was a special red, her mother’s red, and she couldn’t go out and buy more when she ran out. She doubted they even made Vixen Red anymore.

Grace would sit there on her bedroom floor, sneaking glances at the splash of vibrant color alive against the white of her skin, stroking the single red nail with her thumb, strangely comforted yet upset with herself at the same time.

Now. Grace watched the pool of red soak through the layers of paper towels. The tiny bottle, nearly empty, was propped upright on the bedside table.

She looked out the window. It was raining “cats and frogs.” Tears spilled from her eyes and drip… drip… dripped down her cheeks, but Grace felt a smile cracking her face. She crawled across the floor and rummaged around in the back of her closet.

Grace sat there for a moment, looking at it, running her hand across the light plastic surface. With Vixen Red-stained fingers, she carefully wiped off a thin film of dust. Baby steps, she thought, taking a deep breath. Baby steps.

She slipped out the front door and into the rain, hugging the faded rainbow tightly to her chest. Baby steps. Baby steps. Grace opened her mouth wide and caught a water droplet on her tongue.

What a perfect day, she thought, smiling as she squinted into the falling raindrops, to fly a kite.

A bunch of exciting updates!

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last post… my life has been quite full taking care of my baby daughter Maya, who just turned one year old. She is a speedy crawler and loves to pull herself up to standing and “cruise” around holding onto furniture. We think she will be toddling around pretty soon! She is a ray of sunshine and the gift of being her mom brings me incredible joy every single day.

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I have been trying to write and work as much as possible during her naps, and thankfully I am very fortunate to have a wonderful mother-in-law who loves to babysit Miss Maya and give me some uninterrupted work time. (Soooo grateful for you, Barbara! <3)

Over the past few months, some exciting developments have unfolded that I am delighted to share with you!

1. A chapbook of my flash fiction called “How My Parents Fell in Love” was published by Maryland Press. This is an “ebook” of eight very short stories that have never been published in a collection like this before! The book is offered as “pay what you can” to ensure that anyone who would like to read it is able to afford a copy.

2. I have been interviewed on a few podcasts about writing & creativity. I will be sharing more information about these soon!

3. My YA novel THE BEST WEEK THAT NEVER HAPPENED is slated to be published by the fabulous Month9Books in April 2020! I absolutely cannot wait to share this book with all of you. I wrote the first draft back in 2017 and it is truly a story that came straight from my heart.

Over the ensuing months and years, the manuscript has gone through numerous revisions and I have learned so much through the editing process. Editors at my publishing house have given me invaluable feedback — from big picture “developmental edits” to minor detail consistency edits (like, making sure the character doesn’t have blue eyes on page 14 and green eyes on page 108) and copyedits/proofreading on the punctuation/grammar level. I feel very fortunate to have a team of talented, professional writers and editors helping me make my novel the very best it can be!

I was just recently sent a mock up of my book cover, and it took my breath away! I can’t wait to share it with all of you!!

4. I am hosting a giveaway to celebrate my book’s upcoming release. I hope you will take two seconds to enter this contest because it could not be easier, and I have lots of fun prizes to send your way!

TO ENTER: Simply mark The Best Week That Never Happened as “Want to Read” in Goodreads. That’s it! 

Bonus entry: ⇓ share this giveaway on social media and tag me ⇓

On December 31st, I’ll be randomly choosing 30+ winners for the following prizes:

Hand-carved wooden snowflake ornaments 

 

Why wooden snowflake ornaments? Here is a sneak-peek passage from The Best Week That Never Happened to explain how these beauties tie into the novel:

Crowded against the front window is a fake Christmas tree decorated top to bottom with wooden ornaments—“HAND-CRAFTED,” a sign proclaims. Trying to distract myself, I walk over and study the display. Some ornaments are smooth wooden globes, surprisingly light in my hand. Most of the globes are painted with images of Hawaii: surfers, dolphins, ocean waves.

My favorite ornaments are the wooden snowflakes, paper-thin, so delicately carved it is impossible to imagine an actual person crafting them. Maybe, despite the sign’s promise, these are machine produced. I take one in each hand and compare them. It’s clear they are different: one has six narrow points while the other is broader, like a starfish. Could it be possible each ornament is unique, like real snowflakes? That would definitely mean they are hand carved.

The bell jingles.  I glance over.

There he is. Kai.

 

A few of my favorite YA books 

I wrote about some of these fantastic reads in my post for the “31 days of #quietYA” blog; others are perennial faves that I find myself returning to again and again. I will be giving away new copies of all of these books!

  • Emerge by Tobie Easton
  • We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund
  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
  • Merged by Jim & Stephanie Kroepfl

It would mean so much to me if you enter and share with your friends! ⇒ Mark The Best Week That Never Happened as “Want to Read” in Goodreads

5. I started a podcast! It is called “Overflowing Bookshelves” and it is a podcast for people who love the written word.

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Could you spend hours browsing through a bookstore? Is your happy place curled up under a blanket with a good book, or perhaps writing a story of your own? Are you constantly adding to your “to be read” list even though your bookshelves are already overflowing? If so, this podcast is for you! Tune in to hear authentic conversations with published authors about their creative process, paths to publication, and advice for living your most fruitful and inspired life.

The first two episodes are up and I’m hoping to get the next one up later this week. I hope you get a chance to listen & enjoy! 🙂

 

Thank you everyone for your support of my creative endeavors. It means more than you could know, especially as I try to carve out my writing time during this new phase of life: new motherhood. I appreciate you more than you could know!

With love & best wishes for happy holidays & a masterpiece New Year!

-Dallas

valentine’s day in six parts

I. Seventh grade.

I stand in a circle with my friends at snack break, laughing about some silly joke that no one else but us would find funny. I’m wearing my favorite red sweater and my white pedal-pushers. I scan the grassy quad, looking for The Boy I Have a Crush On, but I don’t see him anywhere. I’m hoping maybe he will give me a Valentine today. Maybe he will send me a Candy Graham. Maybe… maybe… My wishes don’t go much farther than that. Candy Grahams and smiles across the quad. To my seventh-grade self, holding hands seems the epitome of romance.

The Candy Grahams are school-sponsored Valentines. All week long, you could go to the ASB room during lunch and pay a quarter for a small square of paper, where you could write a note that will be taped to a Caramel Apple Pop and delivered during fifth period on Valentine’s Day. I bought Candy Grahams for my best friends, but I did not buy one for The Boy I Have a Crush On.

During fifth period, my heart thrums as the Candy Grahams are passed out. I receive one. When I see Erica’s familiar handwriting, my heart sinks just a little.

I receive Valentines from my parents and my Gramps. But all I can think about is the Valentine I didn’t receive. I wonder if a boy will ever ever ever want me to be his Valentine. The future seems so far away.

II. Ninth grade.

I make a Valentine’s card for The Boy I Have a Crush On {who is different from The Boy I Had a Crush On in seventh grade… um, hello, that was a lifetime ago.} Unlike in middle school, my high-school self actually talks to this boy. We are… friends? Sort of. We walk together from fourth period to lunch every day. I am hopeful that he will give me a Valentine. I decide to make him a Valentine so I will have something to give him, if he gives me one first.

During our walk from the classroom to the lunch tables, my heart pounds in my chest. I finger the Valentine in my jeans pocket. I’m wearing my favorite red tank-top and white cardigan. It is Valentine’s Day, but the magic fizzles out the closer we get to the lunch tables. As each minute ticks by, it is morphing into just a regular day. Then he says, “Bye,” heading off to join his friends, and I realize he is not going to give me a Valentine.

Erica tries to talk me out of it, but later I slip the Valentine into his locker anyway. I mean, I already made it. Why let it go to waste?

I receive Valentines from my parents and my Gramps. There is even a bouquet of cheerful sunflowers from my dad. But all I can think about is The Boy I Have a Crush On, and the Valentine I didn’t receive from him.

III. Freshman year of college.

High school seems so long ago. I am a brand-new woman. I have held hands with a boy in a darkened room while we all watched a movie. I have gone out on a date and kissed a boy. I have told a boy, plainly and clearly, my feelings for him. For the first time in my life, The Boy I Have a Crush On just might like-like me back.

This year, I receive a Valentine. It is a very sweet homemade card, accompanied by flowers and the board game Scrabble. Only it is not from The Boy I Have a Crush On. It is from A Boy I Like as Just a Friend. I have told him many times that my romantic feelings just aren’t there, but he continues his unabashed pursuit, and I am beginning to feel unsettled in addition to the sadness and guilt I already feel for hurting his feelings.

I realize that it is not only about being wanted. It is about being wanted by the person you want, too.

I put the flowers in a vase on my dresser, hoping The Boy I Have a Crush On will see them. Hoping he still might come by my room, before Valentine’s Day is over, and ask me to be his.

But, as the streetlights blink on outside the window, as evening steadily shifts into night, he does not come by my room. He does not see my flowers. On my bulletin board, I have pinned up Valentine’s cards from my mom and my dad and my brother, from Erica and Holly and Celine. Yet all I can think about is the Valentine he didn’t give me.

IV. Junior year of college.

Norwich, England. I’m studying abroad for a semester and I am in love for the first time ever. All those other Boys I Had Crushes On seem so insignificant compared to this overwhelming feeling. This is my first Valentine’s Day with a real Boyfriend. I could not be more excited. I take the bus into town and buy a giant card at Pound Land {like the Dollar Store in the U.S.} and some new tights to go with the dress I had already picked out weeks ago. Instead of chocolates, I buy my Boyfriend a case of Red Bull because it is his favorite drink.

The morning of Valentine’s Day, while he is in class, I sneak into his room and leave the card and Red Bull on his desk. A few hours later, he calls me, his voice filled with surprise at my gift. He thanks me for it, even though he says his flatmates are giving him a hard time. He always seems slightly embarrassed, around his flatmates, to be with me.

“I’ll come by at 6,” he says. “I’m taking you out to dinner. It’s a surprise.”

I am a little kid on Christmas Eve. I feel like I’ve finally found the person who loves me back, who appreciates me for who I am. Who wants to be my Valentine and wants everyone to know it. That evening, Boyfriend comes over and gives me a daffodil he picked from the fields. We ride the bus into town together. He still won’t tell me where we’re going for dinner. Walking together down the cobblestone streets, he pauses in front of a Pizza Hut. I laugh, certain he is joking.

He holds the door open. “After you, my lady.”

Heart sinking, I realize he is not joking. In the next thought, I chastise myself for being judgmental. He is taking me out to dinner! On Valentine’s Day! I should be grateful. It doesn’t matter where we go for dinner; what matters is that we are together.

Over slices of pepperoni and cheese, he confesses that he waited until the last minute to make dinner reservations and all the other restaurants in town were booked up. We laugh about it, but all I can think about is The Girl He Had a Crush On back home, the girl he told me about last week, the girl with the pretty smile and contagious laughter who occasionally sends him letters. I feel certain that, if he was celebrating Valentine’s Day with her, he wouldn’t have waited until the last minute to make dinner reservations. He would have treated the occasion as something special. He would have felt so lucky just to be out on a date with her. I feel certain that the reason we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day at a Pizza Hut is because I’m somehow not good enough.

This is the first time I’ve had this feeling, with him. It will not be the last.

V. Four years ago.

Valentine’s Day is a Saturday, and I have dinner plans with My New Boyfriend. We have only been dating for two weeks–can I even call him my boyfriend yet?– but it feels like it has been longer than that. This thing between us is bright and shiny and new, full of sparkling possibility. Yet, my feelings for him are already growing serious. He feels familiar and yet also different than any other Boy who has come before.

My New Boyfriend asks if he can make me dinner for Valentine’s Day. I tell him that would be delightful. Never before has a man other than my father made me dinner.

I am living with my grandparents, who are apprehensive about My New Boyfriend {who they have not yet met} because he is In His Thirties! {I am twenty-six. In their eyes, I am still approximately sixteen.} So I ask My New Boyfriend if he would mind picking me up for our date, saying hello to Grandma and Grandpap. I know that, as soon as they meet him, they will love him. My New Boyfriend says of course, even though this means he will have to drive forty minutes each way four separate times: to pick me up and take me to his apartment for dinner, then to drive me home and go back to his apartment at the end of the evening.

I wear a lacy pink dress and bake red velvet crinkle cookies. I write him a Valentine’s card, where I try to hold back and keep myself from gushing too much. If I have learned one thing from the Valentine’s Days in my past, it is to keep my expectations low.

My New Boyfriend picks me up, right on time, looking so handsome in a collared shirt and sweater. He has a box of toffees for my grandma, who is immediately smitten. Grandpap claps him on the back and offers him a drink. We chit-chat in the living room for a few minutes before I’m able to extricate us away from the conversation and out the front door.

Instead of taking me to his apartment, where I’ve been a couple times before, My New Boyfriend drives me to his mother’s house, which is quite possibly the most gorgeous home I have ever seen. He explains that his mother is spending the night with his sister a few towns over, and she offered up her beautiful kitchen for him to use to cook tonight’s meal. He has made a salad and roasted asparagus and salmon. It smells amazing.

Walking into the dining room to light the candles, my breath catches. He has set the table with the fancy china and silverware. At my place setting waits a box of chocolates and a card. Inside the card, he has made a word search for me–all of the words are terms and inside-jokes from our two-week courtship: my favorite yin yoga class, my dog Murray’s name, the place of our first date: Lottie’s Ice Cream Parlor.

My eyes fill with tears. I feel like I’m in a movie or a novel. I realize that I don’t have to hold myself back with this man. I don’t have to be afraid of being disappointed. He is the Valentine my seventh-grade self dreamed of: choosing me, putting in effort for me, trying to make me feel special. When he looks at me, his eyes light up. When I look at him, my heart breaks wide open.

Until now, I always thought this kind of thing happened for Other Girls in Other Lives. But now, it is happening for me.

Later, when he kisses me goodnight, all I can think about is how I hope he always wants to be my Valentine.

VI. Today.

My Husband is not making me a candlelit dinner this Valentine’s Day. It is a Wednesday, and we both won’t get home from work till after 7. Sometimes fancy homemade candlelit dinners simply aren’t practical if you have to get up for work the next morning and you want to get to bed at a decent hour. Instead, we are planning to go out to a new Thai restaurant we’ve been meaning to try.

We will exchange cards and hugs and kisses. I will remind My Husband of the crossword puzzle he made for me, our first Valentine’s Day. “Can you believe, we’d only been together for two weeks!” we’ll marvel.

“Can you believe, you drove all the way there and back, there and back, to pick me up and take me home?”

“Yeeesh. I must have really liked you,” he’ll say with a wink.

When I was in seventh grade, and ninth grade, and college, and all the years in between, I was so focused on the romantic aspect of Valentine’s Day. I dove full-force into the hearts and flowers and chocolates, the parade and performance of the day. It was almost like Valentine’s Day was a milestone when I felt pressured to prove to others — to myself? — that I was loved. And again and again, the day fell flat. But it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough love in my life. It was because I was focused in the wrong tiny sliver of the pie.

Even before I met My Husband, even when I was poking an unwanted Valentine through the slit of a locker or forcing a smile as I chewed my way through a slice of lukewarm pizza, those Valentine’s Days were not wasted. I think of that girl I was, so fully ensconced in love. I think of her and I want to tell her,

Take a step back, baby girl. Look around you. Look at your family and your friends. These are the people you are going to have with you down the road. You don’t have to be so scared. You don’t have to try to force things. The kind of love you dream about is going to come into your life soon enough. Trust in it. Trust in yourself. And don’t forget to be so grateful for all the other love around you. Don’t take those Valentines for granted.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say all of this now that I’ve found My Husband. I remember those lonely wrung-out days vividly–days when I was still searching, hoping to meet him in every busy café or grocery store aisle I wandered down. I remember feeling so anxious and unmoored, worried that I might never find my person. Wondering if I would ever have the easy comfort of a sure-and-solid Valentine love, like a worn-in pair of jeans–the comfort I feel today.

Maybe it’s because of My Husband that I’m able, now, to slough off the fear that used to eclipse the love within this holiday for me. Now, I can fully appreciate Valentine’s Day–not for its pomp and circumstance, but for its richness and depth. I love seeing the shy smiles on my students’ faces when I give them cards and candy. I love the rainbow crayon homemade Valentines they give me in return. I love bringing cookies to our across-the-hall neighbor Joyce and bringing chocolates to our 97-year-old Great Aunt Flo, seeing the pure surprised delight on their faces. I love mailing cards to my friends scattered around the country. I love reading and rereading the Valentines from my mom and my dad and my brother, displaying them on our kitchen table where I can see them throughout the day. I love buying myself flowers, if I want to, not needing to prove anything to anyone but simply because they are pretty and would brighten up the apartment.

This Valentine’s Day, I have everything my past self used to long for. The irony is that now, looking back, I realize that I had it all along.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear reader. Please tell someone you love them. And please know that you are loved and you are enough, exactly as you are.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and use the following questions as inspiration for some “free-writing”:

  • What is your favorite Valentine’s memory?
  • Make a list of all the love in your life–people, animals, places, activities, it all counts!
  • Write a love letter to yourself, describing in detail all the things you love about your amazing self.

life is like a wine tasting

sunstone winery

Yesterday, we took a “family staycation day” and drove up to the San Ynez Valley to explore the beautiful vineyards. It was a gorgeous day and we ended up doing a wine tasting at Sunstone Winery, which was absolutely delightful. It was my first time doing a wine tasting at a winery, and got me thinking about the ways that life is like a wine tasting:

1. Each taste is unique and lovely in its own way, and should be enjoyed for what it is. For example, if you expect a pinot grigio to be a merlot, you are going to be disappointed. But if you pay attention to the distinct flavors of the pinot grigio, you are able to appreciate it for what it is. In the same way, each season of life has different flavors — pros and cons, perks and disappointments. Try to appreciate the season of life you are in for all the gifts it has to offer, instead of wishing for a different season. You will get there soon enough, and there will likely be things you miss about your life here and now!

me and mom winery

2. Each pour is meant to be savored, not rushed through. So often, it can feel like we are rushing through life: counting down hours in a workday, scrolling through email constantly on our smartphones, yearning for the weekend or for our next vacation. Even meals are often hurried affairs, something we rush through rather than enjoy, or mindlessly eat in front of the TV — have you ever finished eating something and realized you barely even tasted a single bite? In a wine tasting, each taste is sipped slowly and savored. Can you imagine what life would be like if we treated every meal with such respect? Not to mention, if we tried to savor each moment of our day as if it were a sip of expensive wine?

greg and pops winery

3. The joy of the experience doesn’t come from the wine itself — it comes from the people you share it with. If I had gone wine-tasting by myself yesterday, I would have had an okay time, but I would not have had anyone to share the experience with. Much of the fun of trying out the different wines was sipping them out on the verandah together, talking and laughing and telling stories and discussing our opinions on the different wines. That was where the joy truly came from. Our family visit to the vineyards wasn’t even really about the wine tasting at all — it was about spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing a fun experience with those we love.

me and gb winery

Now I’m off to soak up more family time before we take my little bro to the airport tomorrow for his new job in NYC! So proud of him! (And I’m going to miss him a TON.)

Hope you are soaking up every beautiful moment of this lovely day, wherever you are and whatever you are doing! ❤

my brother’s graduation!

My brother Greg graduated with his MBA from the University of Southern California this past weekend! I am so incredibly proud of him, and it was a blessing to be able to celebrate with him and my family. Here are some photos I snapped from the weekend…

greg with parents graduation

MBA graduation

Greg got the Arete Award from USC for his academic performance, community service and leadership! So proud of all his hard work!

me and greg graduation

It wouldn’t have been a USC celebration without the marching band!

greg and classmates

I am so proud of my brother and I had a blast celebrating him and his classmates. Congrats, Greg! I love you!

Question of the morning:

  • Are you attending any graduations this year?

christmas tree lane

This past weekend, Allyn and I had a really fun and festive time celebrating the holiday season! On Friday night we went to a fantastic production of A Christmas Carol. I was blown away by the quality of everything — the acting, singing, set design, special effects, costumes — it was superb! I nearly cried at the end when Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one!”

me and allyn

On Saturday we had a picnic lunch overlooking the city of Oakland and the San Francisco Bay, which was beautiful even despite the fog.

picnic view

Then we went to the famous carousel at Tilden Park, which was decorated for the holidays. One thing I love about my sweetheart is that he’s up for anything, even a mid-afternoon carousel ride alongside a bunch of toddlers and little children.

tilden park carousel

me and allyn christmas

On Saturday night we celebrated my dear friend Dana’s birthday, which was so much fun. Allyn and I headed out early for the party, and on our way we stopped at Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda. Neither of us had been there before, but I heard many great things about it when I did some poking around online for “holiday things to do in the Bay Area.”

We went hoping for lots of Christmas lights… and let’s just say, we were not disappointed!

christmas lights

christmas lights

christmas lights

christmas lights

christmas lights

I loved seeing all the different themes of the houses and the characters they featured… Snoopy, Sesame Street, Disney, The Night Before Christmas… one house even had Christmas karaoke going! There was a man dressed as Santa Claus for the kids to take pictures with, and at one point a parade of people dressed as Christmas trees danced down the middle of the street!

Allyn and I bought hot chocolate from some adorable girls selling homemade treats in front of one of the houses, and we sipped it as we strolled along the street admiring all the lights. It was absolutely lovely. I definitely want to go back next year!

Hope you are having a delightful Christmas Eve, my dear friends! I am sending light and love to every one of you ❤

Questions of the morning:

  • Are there any amazing light displays in your neck of the woods?
  • What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?